Welcome to part 2 of my 2019 Asia Trip Series! Part 1 was all about the fun and interesting things you can do in Tokyo, Japan. Me and my sisters had a great time! If you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, and not sure what to do, or see, or eat– that post has some great ideas in it! I hope you check it out.
Part 2, as you can see from the title, is all about our day trip to Mt. Fuji and back. Visiting Mt. Fuji is a very popular tourist destination. It’s the highest mountain in Japan, and located only about ~62 miles outside of Tokyo. So getting to it is relatively easy (famous last words). It can be a very challenging hike if the summit is your goal, but the surrounding areas at the base of the mountain are flatter and also nice to walk around and enjoy. There are also tons of pretty sights to see like Lake Motosu, the Shinto shrine, and more.
So without further ado, I’d like to get into the stories!
How To Hike Mt. Fuji From The BASE
Notice how ‘base’ is in all caps this time?
I’ve got fun stories to share, but first, let me tell you that hiking Mt. Fuji from the base, and I mean the true base of the mountain, is really freaking difficult! And I’ll tell you why.
There are four major routes to the summit, each has numbered “stations” along the way. There are about 10 stations from the bottom to the top.
99.999% of people who hike Mt. Fuji start at station 5 and go up from there. No one, and I mean almost no one, starts climbing from the true base (station 0/1).
So why was that exactly what me and my sisters wanted to do?
There were a few reasons. One, we did our trip in May, and so technically it was “off season” to summit Mt. Fuji. Meaning icy conditions and dangerous weather were still a real possibility for those who wanted to attempt to reach the top.
Two, both of my sisters are not as avid a hiker as I am. At the time, I had been living in Georgia, and so I regularly hiked mountains and did hikes with challenging elevation. My sisters, living in Michigan (a very flat state), didn’t have the opportunity to train for this trip like I did, and build up endurance for a climb like Fuji. So starting at station 5, and going up from there, aka the steepest part of the mountain, wasn’t really appealing to them.
Three, I had heard from multiple people (and read online), that stations 0 through 5 are the prettiest parts of the mountain. Lots of greenery, forest area, shrines, and foliage, etc. After you get to station 5 and continue up, the mountain gets pretty rocky and barren (or so I was told). So when planning our day trip to Fuji, we thought, “why not see the prettiest parts of the mountain, that also happen to be flatter and easier to hike?”
When we first started planning this trip I was a little bummed out that I wouldn’t be going to the summit, as it is on my bucket list. But I wanted my sisters to enjoy this adventure as well, and do a day of hiking they were comfortable with. After thinking about it some more, I did start to get excited about seeing the “pretty” parts of the mountain though, and having a relaxing day in nature. Because in the end, any day where I get to spend the majority of it in nature, no matter the activity– I’m happy!
So it’s for reasons one, two, and three, we all finally (and happily) agreed that hiking Mt. Fuji from the base, to about station 5, and going back down would be our goal.
Dun dun dun…
Finding The Base
Remember above when I said that 99.999% of people who hike Fuji do so from Station 5 – ? That wasn’t an exaggeration. This also means that almost every website, article, and blog out there on the internet will tell you in great detail how to hike Mt. Fuji… from station 5.
Just try Googling “How To Hike Mt. Fuji” and every single article that comes up will tell you how to do so from station 5 and going up from there.
But this isn’t what we wanted! My sisters and I SCOURED the internet for any shred of information that could help us figure out how to start climbing from the base, but it just doesn’t exist! Honestly, we had a really confusing and tough time figuring this out.
After hours, days, and weeks of research though, we started to form a plan.
Getting To Fuji From Tokyo
To get to Fuji, you basically need to find a way to get to Fujikawaguchiko – which is a small town in the Yamanashi Prefecture of Japan (again, about ~62 miles outside of Tokyo).
We bought bus tickets online ahead of the trip that would take us from Shinjuku Station (in Tokyo) to Kawaguchiko Station (in Fujikawaguchiko). This is a popular way to get to Fuji, but not the only way. There are many different bus lines, and even train lines, that will get you to Fuji. You could even rent a car or get a taxi if you wanted. But buses seems to be the most popular.
In the end we decided that getting to Kawaguchiko Station by bus was the easiest and cheapest. I’ll repeat that, when you’re researching online for “how to get to Fuji”, just remember that by some means, you need to get to Kawaguchiko Station! You’ll notice that I’m bolding lots of things in this part of the post, and it’s because I’m trying to help you out!
Again, we had a pretty difficult time planning our Fuji trip. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, information that’s outdated, information that’s not relevant to what we wanted, and information that’s just straight-up wrong. So if you’re planning a trip to Fuji, and you come across this post, I hope it helps!
The Actual Day
Back to the story!
That morning we woke up super early and headed to Shinjuku station to catch our bus. On our way there we went to a conbini (convenience store) and stocked up on a tooooon of snacks! We wanted snacks for the bus ride, but also snacks to enjoy while hiking, or for when we wanted to take breaks.
We loaded up on 7-Eleven onigiri, nuts, bananas, chips, and my sisters got these sandwich things that they were obsessed with (the bread was really fluffy or something? Idk, lol).
I bought a ton of different flavors that I really loved, like inari tofu, pickled plum, adzuki bean, sesame-seaweed, etc. I think my favorite onigiri flavor was the one wrapped in tofu! The pickled plum ones are a close second though. 🙂
The bus ride one-way is about 2.5 hours. We settled into our seats, broke out the snacks, and enjoyed the drive. There are some really scenic parts along the way. And as you get closer to your destination, you can start to see Fuji in the distance, which is exciting!
Finally we arrived at Kawaguchiko Station, and here’s where the real fun begins…
The station itself is kind of like a visitor center. It was packed with people, long lines for the bathroom, lots of people waiting for their second bus that would take them to the 5th station, a gift shop, etc. It was a bustling little area. It took us awhile, but we finally found a map with English that showed the different hiking routes on the mountain.
We knew that the Yoshida Trail was the name of the hiking path we were mostly going to be following. I believe it is also sometimes called the “Yellow Line” when looking at hiking maps of Fuji.
During our countless hours of research, there was one random blog post I stumbled upon in a hard-to-find corner of the internet, where 2 guys actually hiked from the true base to the top. Finding this blog post was like a needle in a haystack, but it was the most helpful page out of any other one I read!
In his blog post, this guy said that stations 0 through 4 are basically unmarked. You just have to look for little landmarks, and trust that you’re on the right path– great!
But one really helpful thing that he wrote, was that station 0 is essentially the location of a shrine:
“The true base of Mt Fuji starts at a Sengen Shrine called Kitaguchihongufujisengen Shrine which is a ridiculously long name. There are many Sengen Shrine’s so make sure to go this one. You can just Google Map “Hongufuji Sengen Shrine” and you’ll see it.”
So if you can get yourself to this shrine, then you’re at “station 0” and can go from there. This was our plan.
It’s about a 26 minute walk from Kawaguchiko Station to this shrine. After filling up our water bottles and waiting our turn in the ridiculously long bathroom lines, we were off!
The Shrine At The Base Of Mt. Fuji
The Hongufuji Sengen Shrine was a bit hard to find. We were relying on offline Google Maps to help us get there, but it wasn’t that reliable. We had to wind our way through the streets of this little town, and it was difficult at times to be certain we were going in the right direction.
But we eventually got there! The path leading up to the shrine is really cool. There’s a huge ornamental arch that frames the pathway into a tunnel of trees. The pathway leading up to the main area has statues, a bridge, and other interesting artifacts to see.
There weren’t that many people at all in this area, so it was nice being able to explore without crowds around us.
We’re at the shrine… station 0?… we think so… ok…. where’s the path, where’s the path…. where’s the hiking path… gotta spot anything that looks like a hiking path…
Nope. We couldn’t find ANYTHING that indicated a direction up the mountain. It was like we stumbled upon this quaint little shrine in the woods, but that’s all there was. Again, there were almost no people in this area, so there were few to choose from to ask for help. We did try though. We tried asking some if they spoke any English, and if they knew where the hiking path up the mountain began.
But no one in this area spoke English. We mostly just got polite shakes of the head, with a soft “no, sorry!” – a smile, and a point in another direction. We were pointed in almost every direction there is to walk. We would walk in that direction for awhile, looking for absolutely anything, any kind of sign, or something that looked like it was a trail marker. Nothing.
We probably wandered this little shrine area for over an HOUR trying to find this stupid trail! It was funny at first, then frustrating, then funny again. It’s times like these you just have to lean into the humor of the situation and stay positive! After all, this is part of the adventure of traveling – getting lost!
Maybe two hours went by… I’m not really sure. But after searching the surrounding shrine area at large, getting pointed in every direction by polite locals who spoke no English– we finally found a little pathway into the woods that kinda sorta looked like it had been walked on by people before.
For reference, for ANYONE looking to hike Mt. Fuji from the true base like we did, here’s where this little path, that didn’t really look like a path, was:
I made this from memory, so exact details may not be in the same shape. But this is the general placement of where things were, in relation to the shrine. There are no official trail markers. Nothing that tells you off the paved road is a little path, then a little wooden post that you turn left at, and then THAT is the start of the true path up Fuji.
But now you know!
Hiking Mt. Fuji
So right off the bat by that little wooden post we were greeted with a sign that warned us there was a bear in the area, lol.
This adventure just kept getting more and more interesting! Kathleen was kind of freaked out by it. I’ve come across bears quite a few times in the woods though, and really they want nothing to do with you. All they will do is run away. At least, this is my experience with Black Bears. The truth is, in that moment I found myself thinking, “what kind of bears are native to Japan? I wonder…” Surely not Grizzlies. Now that thought would have frightened me enough to turn around. But those are in North America only. So in the end, after a silent back and forth conversation in my head, I decided it really wasn’t anything to worry about. Onward we went!
Oh, about 50 ft into this little stretch of pathway we did hear a rustling in the woods to our left. Again I found myself casually wondering, “Hmm, I wonder what animals are native to this region of Japan?” Unfortunately, this time I said outloud the first thought that popped into my head, which was “wild boar” and that freaked Kathleen out all over again. Sorry, Kathleen! We passed the mysterious rustling noise eventually though, and found ourselves on a really peaceful little dirt path through the woods.
Birds chirped, bees buzzed, and the wind gently moved the leaves and the trees around us. It was starting to turn into the exact kind of day I had dreamed about having on this trip! A relaxing day in nature.
We walked along this path for hours. It mostly just went straight, in one direction. Every once in awhile we would come across a main road and have to cross.
We second-guessed ourselves a million times during this hike– wondering if we were going in the right direction. Wondering if we hit station 1 yet, or 2. If we were even on the right path (no trail markers). Is this just a random path in the woods? Are we even going up? It was pretty flat for the most part, with only a slight incline. That was our only clue that we were going “up” the mountain.
We would stop from time to time to take pictures, or dig into our onigiri snacks. We took turns carrying our massive snack haul and our day-bag. I brought two backpacks with me on this trip, something that I have never done before. But I wanted to experiment with bringing my nice DSLR camera on this trip, to play around with landscape photography and such. I didn’t end up doing much of that in the end (the two lenses I currently own are not suited for landscape photography at all it turns out). But my little camera backpack turned out to be a great day-bag to use throughout our whole trip!
So we took turns. One of us would carry the backpack with our water bottles. One of us would be the bag b*tch and have to haul our onigiri (seriously, we brought A LOT with us, lol). And one of us would get a rest. And throughout the day we’d rotate.
After what seemed like a few hours of walking, we FINALLY came across an official looking sign that had Mt. Fuji on it and labeled trails! Regardless of it being all in Japanese, it was still really exciting to see. It was the first time that day we felt any sense of confidence that we were going in the right direction!
Honestly, even though we had a rough time researching how to get to Mt. Fuji– even though we had a rough time researching how to hike from the true base– and even though we had a really rough time finding the start of the trail from the shrine… I loved this day.
I loved being outside surrounded by woods all day long. We played word games to pass the time, like OUT, and “name that anime character.” We took breaks every once in awhile to chow down on some yummy onigiri, and take photos.
It wasn’t the trip to Mt. Fuji I thought I would have on my first time there– as I always envisioned myself one day doing the “main” hike most people do to the summit. But it was a great day nonetheless, and one of my favorite ones on the trip. It was an unconventional hike of Mt. Fuji, but it was still a hike! One day I’ll reach the summit. In the meantime I’ll have the memories from this day, laughing with my sisters and wondering what the heck we were doing out there lost in the woods, to look back on with a smile.
Returning To Tokyo
Initially, we planned to hike Mt. Fuji from the base, to station 5, and then either walk or bus down. Most people, again, take a bus to station 5 and then start hiking. So our chances of being able to just walk to station 5 and catch a bus back down seemed likely. As buses are always going to and from there.
We booked our return bus back to Tokyo in advance, and I believe it left at 4pm. So at a certain point during the day, when we noticed the sun was getting lower, we realized we had two choices. One, keep walking (pick up the pace) and try to reach station 5 in time to bus down, and catch our bus back to Tokyo. Or Choice two, turn around and go back down the way we came to make our bus in time. At this point in the hike, we had no idea where we were in relation to station 5. Were we close? What station were we at?
We took a gamble. Who is to say if we could have made it to station 5 in time? But we didn’t know where we were. So we decided to turn around and go back down the same way, knowing that at least with that choice, we had time to reach the bottom and catch our bus.
We made it back to Kawaguchiko station in time. And as the sun set around us, we said a final silent goodbye to Fuji, thanked it for the fun, and headed back to Tokyo…
Ok, so I wanted that to sound peaceful and zen, which the parting moment was, but real talk that bus ride back to Tokyo ended up being the bus ride from HELL!
We got stuck in an insane traffic jam because of construction. Cars were totally gridlocked, and we were left in awkward upright bus seats for hours longer than we should have been, tired and exhausted with neck kinks, sore backs, numb butts, lol. It was the worst!
But we made it back. Climbing into my bed at the hostel that night after a shower never felt so good!
How To Hike Mt. Fuji From The True Base (Station 0): The End
I hope you liked this story! This is the tale of my first time ever hiking Mt. Fuji, and my detailed guide for how to hike Mt. Fuji from the base. This day was so many things, and I loved it all. Except that final bus ride.
If you’re looking to go to Fuji and start from station 0 like us, I hope this post helps you out! It’s doable. Tough to execute, but doable.
No matter if you want to go to the summit, or just explore the surrounding areas, vising Mt. Fuji in my opinion really is a ‘must-see’ thing in Japan. On this day the one thing I wish I did (but didn’t have time for), was go see the view of the mountain from the lake at its base. Next time!
I know I’ll be back.
Thanks for reading! 🙂